Extract Chain: The Good, The Bad and the Minimal Techno

In the last Q&A video for the Ableton Cookbook email list, I discussed how to layer MIDI clips together so that you have multiple MIDI Clips playing the same MIDI Instrument Rack using MIDI routing. This is a really cool way to experiment making complex melodic patterns out of simpler parts. I presented this as an alternative to Extract Chain.

There were questions, though.

The most common question was: How do you apply this to Drum Racks?

So, I thought I’d take a moment and talk about layering MIDI Clips with Drum Racks.

What About Extract Chain?

First of all, for those of you who haven’t experienced Extract Chain…get yourself ready.

Ableton Extract Chain

Click to Biggify

Extract Chains is a command that is found by right (cntrl) -clicking a drum rack chain in the session view. If you don’t see the individual chains for each cell in the Drum Rack, you need to click the small arrow in the Drum Rack’s track title. Once you’ve selected the chain and selected Extract Chains, Ableton will create a new track with a new set of clips that includes only the notes played by your selected chain. So, if I select the “Kick” cell of my Drum Rack and choose Extract Chains, then I will end up with a new track with the clips of all the notes that the kick plays in all the clips on the original tracks.

Ableton Extract Chain

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Extract chains is a great, GREAT tool to use when you are making a track one of whose main characteristics is the drum pattern. Since you make, say, the snare drum its own track, it makes it easier to lay it out on the Arrangement view. That way, you can get really exact with your automation, etc. A good example of this is Minimal, Kompakt-style tunes. How many DJ Koze tracks come down to changing the amount of delay on the snare? A lot. Since, in this music, little changes in the drum pattern are a big part of the composition, it is nice to be able to lay them out over multiple bars, as opposed to the short-sightedness of the Session View. MHO.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that they are not kidding around when they use the term “Extract.” The extracted notes are no longer in the original clip and the actual Simpler which plays the Kick Drum (remember that each sound in a Drum Rack is actually a separate Simpler) is now absent from the original track.

ABleton Extract Chain

Click to Biggify

There’s a couple of reasons why this isn’t totally ideal. First, it is really best done after you’ve totally completed your Drum Rack programming. Why? Because now you won’t be able to see all of the percussion notes together, which can make it difficult to create cohesive patterns. Second, since the original Drum Rack is basically mutilated, you can no longer really effectively play the Drum Rack with your controller. This is a bummer even if you (like me) are no pro on the MPC Pads, because now you can’t solo sounds, etc. Basically, if you use Extract Chains, you are kind of sacrificing some of the cool stuff about Drum Racks.

This post is getting deep, so I’m going to split it into two parts. Tune in next time for my tips about how to overcome the shortcomings of Extract Chains and open some new horizons in your drum programming.

P.S. Are you on the Ableton Cookbook email list yet? If not, then GET FAMILIAR! And, by all means, leave me a comment if you have questions about Extract Chains.

7 Responses to “Extract Chain: The Good, The Bad and the Minimal Techno”

  1. Navarre December 5, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    Very nice post. Looking forward to your thoughts on this.

    My thoughts – Could you duplicate the original drum rack, or even just save it to your drum racks before extracting the chains? My strategy so far for jazzing up drum tracks is to get my basic loop going in session view – the irreducible elements of the groove. Then I copy that for like 64 bars into arrange view and listen to it over and over, adding in elements, breaks, drops, fills where I expect to hear them. I just use the excise (command + E) command with wanton disregard to chop up midi and audio loops and add interest; the basic groove is stored safely in session view in case I wander down some path that ends up sounding dumb. I don’t know if this is unusual, but I tend to hear what I want to hear in my head, and with practice I can now accurately translate that into appropriate fills, key changes, special effects, automation, etc… I guess I would call it “subtractive arranging,” as opposed to the additive/stepwise arranging one usually does.

    • Anthony December 6, 2011 at 1:57 am #

      That’s how I roll a lot of times, too. But then again I rarely have the percussion THAT up front. Not my style as of right now.

      As for duplicating the drum rack, that is definitely a possibility. I try to avoid having duplicate instruments/racks in my set, though. Superstitious, I guess.

  2. syncr December 7, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    Hi. Can you point me to the initial article with info on layering midi clips? I signed up for the email newsletter but can’t seem to find the article you are referencing.
    Thanks :)

    • Anthony December 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

      It was actually on a Q&A video that I did for the list. I’m emailing you a link to the Q&A archives right now!

      • Mark December 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

        Hey, just joined the list and would like to be sent the archive for the Q&A videos if possible please? Keep up the great work man!

        • Anthony December 7, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

          Just sent you an email, Mark!

          I’m going to put this link in the welcome email…don’t know why I didn’t think of that before, haha.

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  1. Tip for Using Extract Chain with Ableton Live - December 28, 2011

    […] Tip for Using Extract Chain in Ableton Live";reddit_newwindow="1"; In the last post, I discussed the extract chain function in Ableton…as well as what I felt were some of its drawbacks. I like the fact that I can break a MIDI […]

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